October 3, 2015
Since the United States began its bombing campaign in Syria, the Syrian government continues to voice its opposition questioning U.S. motive and the end goal of its war against ISIL in Syrian territories. The U.S. claims it is conducting such strikes to end the threat posed by ISIL and the humanitarian catastrophe caused by ISIL’s presence in the region.
The Syrian government has rejected U.S. reasons for the airstrikes, claiming that the American bombing’s objectives are to depose Assad and put the opposition in power. So far, U.S. airstrikes have failed to end ISIL’s expansion, thousands of Syrians have lost their lives to the four-year war and many have become refugees in Europe, while the war continues with no possibility of ending soon.
In his attempt to protect the regime from a possible topple by ISIL and the Syrian opposition, Assad, has authorized Russia to begin its own bombings in the territories lost by the regime. War powers headed by the U.S., are now questioning Russia’s agenda with the opposition, claiming that Russia’s motives are mainly to keep Assad in power and protect Russia’s interests in the region.
The United States and other Western nations, have accused the Russian President Vladimir Putin of conducting airstrikes on places held by the Syrian opposition against claims that the Russian military, was only carrying out its attacks on ISIL. The accusations, begs the question about who is on the right. Does the U.S. have the right to conduct airstrikes in Syria against the government authorization? And is Mr. Putin acting legally by ordering Russian military to bomb Syria after invitation by the Syrian regime?
Under article 2(4) of the UN charter, states are required to refrain from the threat or use of force, while conducting international relations. However, the charter, recognize two exceptions to the rule. Under article (51), a state may use force in self-defense and under chapter (VII), the UN Security Council may authorize the use of force for the protection of international peace and security.
After the UN Security Council passed resolution 2170 condemning the terrorists acts of ISIL, it invoked chapter (VII) of the UN charter, calling on member states to protect the civilian population in Syria and to coöperate in their efforts to end the threat posed by ISIL. Not long after, the U.S. began its bombing campaign against ISIL in Syria, despite the regime’s opposition.
Many have questioned U.S.’ right to conduct the strikes, arguing that ISIL, while acting in Syria, poses no threat to the U.S. that may require acting in self-defense. But, in the wake of ISIL’s extensive recruitment campaign and its determination to attack the U.S. homeland, the United States, reserves the right to conduct a preëmptive strike as a way to stop imminent threat by ISIL. In doing so, the U.S. could claim it was acting in self-defense.
Another argument by the U.S. for the strikes could be that, it was acting to limit the humanitarian crisis and to protect the civilian population from attacks by ISIL. The problem with the U.S. position is that many are beginning to question America’s motive for siding with the Syrian opposition against the regime, when there is no proof the opposition can be trusted.
Russia can also claim it has a legitimate right to carry out strikes in Syria. A nation under threat of attack may act in self-defense by seeking the help of a more powerful nation capable of coming to its rescue. In the 80s United States came to the aid of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, in the 90s, the U.S. was in Kuwait to protect the nation from attack by Iraq and also, during the Clinton administration, the United States helped protect Albanians from massacre by Slobodan Milosevic.
Russia can argue it is acting to protect a nation under threat by terrorists, with the agenda to topple an elected government. Since the U.S. strikes against ISIL in Iraq occurred at the request of the Iraqi government and considered to be legal, the argument can also be made that Russia’s strikes are legal based on invitation to strike by the Assad regime.
It is fair game. The U.S. has demonstrated its support for the Syrian opposition, while Russia is supporting the regime of Assad and bent on protecting it from a possible overthrow. At this stage, it is questionable whether both nations have legitimate rights to carry out current strikes in Syria, considering the fact both nations are siding with opposing parties. But, arguments can be made for why acting is justified, based on humanitarian grounds and Russia’s invitation by the regime. Despite the arguments, there is still a debate over each nation’s motive in Syria, since many believe they’re there solely for personal interests.
Ending the internal conflict in Syria can only be achieved through diplomacy. Assad has lost his legitimacy to rule since he bears the blame for the civil war and deaths of Syrians. However, forcing him out of power will not stop the fighting.
There is a question about who will replace Assad if he is forcefully taken out. Syrians no longer trust the opposition supported by the U.S. and many agree that leaving Assad in power temporarily is better than allowing ISIL to take charge of power in Syria. A possible solution is to let Assad stay for now, while the rest of the world focus on removing the threat of ISIL. Then, a way forward for Syria can be worked out between the regime and a credible opposition.
Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is an expert in general law, foreign relations and the United Nations. He is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment,’ ‘Criminal Law-Homicide’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available on Amazon. Follow on Twitter @san0670.